Jim Hall’s Team Illinois plays next week at Plainfield SouthJoliet West's Jake Herron will pitch for Team Illinois White in next week's Midwest Baseball Classic at Plainfield South. | File photo
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:42PM
Jim Hall might have retired from coaching baseball at Lockport in 2006, but the game remains a major piece of his life.
Hall, who recently returned from a coaching trip to the Czech Republic, has been involved in various aspects of the game, including international baseball for 20 years. He will manage Team Illinois White in next week’s Midwest Baseball Classic at Plainfield South.
“There will be 16 teams there from 13 states,” Hall said of the event largely for high school seniors. “Our team is considered Illinois’ southern team. We go from our area to Peoria to southern Illinois and up to Rockford.”
As usual, the Joliet area will be well represented. Among the players Hall mentioned are Joliet West pitcher Jake Herron, Lockport catcher Derek Bangert and outfielder Ted Snidanko, Lincoln-Way West infielder Connor Hogan, Lincoln-Way Central outfielder Lucas Jones and pitcher Matt Mikolajcak, Lincoln-Way North pitcher Mike Miller and shortstop Josh Handzik, plus Andrew shortstop Dan Durkin.
“Mike Foltynewicz from Minooka (the 2010 No. 1 draft pick of the Houston Astros) was seen by cross-checkers at this event, and Joe Benson (former Joliet Catholic standout now in the Minnesota Twins organization) was, too,” Hall said. “Both of them were helped by the exposure.”
Team Illinois White will play games at 12:15 and 3 p.m. Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday. Hall’s team went 5-0 last year, 3-2 in 2010 and 4-1 in 2009. The opponents this year will come from New Jersey, Michigan, Indiana, two from Colorado and Team Illinois Tan, Illinois’ northern entry.
So if you’re interested in seeing high-quality baseball with top players from 13 states and several of our own, make it a point to come out to Plainfield South next week. Games will be played all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
St. Joe’s tourneys
More to enjoy.
If you’re interested in watching baseball played strictly for the love of the game, St. Joseph Park is a place you want to be over the next couple of weeks.
The local youth league at the intersection of Theodore and Raynor is hosting the local Pinto World Series for 8-year-olds and the 11U Zone Tournament this week. Pool play began Wednesday and continues through Friday, with semifinals and the title games Saturday.
Next week, on the same Wednesday through Saturday time schedule, St. Joe’s will play host to the 10U Mustang Zone and 12U Bronco Zone.
For those unfamiliar, the Pony Baseball Zone tournaments are the last stop before the World Series. This 11U Zone champion will play in next week’s World Series at Chesapeake, Va. The 10U Mustang Zone winner next week will earn a trip to Texas for that World Series, while the 12U Bronco Zone winner will be bound for California.
I talked with Marc Thompson, manager of the St. Joe’s Blue entry in the local Pinto World Series, about the tradition of the tournaments.
“When we meet with our coaches, we emphasize the history of all the local high school players, college players and even professional players who came through our program,” he said. “There is a lot of history, and we want to hammer that down.
“In addition, we have lots of second- and third-generation players.”
The Pinto World Series truly is local. St. Joe’s Blue is bidding for a fourth straight championship. The other entries include St. Joe’s Red and two Plainfield teams, along with Channahon, Minooka, Whiteford and Wilmington. Some of those organizations also will have teams in the Zone tournaments and will be joined by entries from outside our area and outside the state.
Not to drop names, but several years ago a familiar figure stood behind the screen near the third-base dugout of the Bronco field and watched intently as the Evansville (Ind.) All-Stars battled St. Joe’s. He was watching a kid named Mattingly play for Evansville.
Now, there may not be a Don Mattingly in attendance every year, but you never know who might show up.
Plus, you can’t beat the price — it’s free to come out and watch any games you wish.
“This is the second year where we have had no gate fee,” Thompson said. “Teams pay the gate fee. That should keep people from being afraid to come out. You can walk right in, and you can get a hot dog for a buck and a piece of pizza for $2.”
For my money, I still don’t feel I have seen a better team than the Wilmington group managed by Lodi Vercelli and led by Tanner Roark, Tony Vercelli and Shane Longest that won the Bronco Zone and had some success at the World Series in California. But exciting, quality baseball is played in these tournaments every year, and these kids do it for the right reason, the love of the game.